Nania, 19, angles for Classic berth: Joey Nania, who turned 19 in April, now has two beats on a Bassmaster Classic qualification. From Liberty Lake, Wash., Nania was the top angler from his state in last week’s Bassmaster Federation Nation Western Divisional. At the same time, he’s doing well in his first year as a pro on a BASS circuit, the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open.
Either — or both — of those lines could hook him up with a Bassmaster Classic qualification in 2011.
He sits in 8th place in the Central Open points race. If he can maintain, he’ll be in contention for one of the two Classic seats awarded through the Central Open. His recent Federation finish qualified him to advance in October to the Classic-qualifying final, the Bassmaster Federation Nation Championship presented by Yamaha Marine and Skeeter Boats.
He is one of the youngest Championship qualifiers in Federation history, and seems to be following in the footsteps of Bradley Roy, who at age 18 represented Kentucky at the finals, then went on through the Bassmaster Opens to qualify at 18 as the youngest pro in Bassmaster Elite Series history.
Like Roy, Nania excelled at an early age. He’s a two-time Bassmaster Junior World champion, taking the titles at age 15 in 2005 and at age 17 in 2008. He’s chosen competitive fishing as his career. One of his first goals is earning an invitation to the highest level, the Bassmaster Elite Series.
Coincidence seems to be lending him a hand. As it happens, the Federation Championship will be on the same fishery as the next-up Central Open, the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
“It’s perfect,” he said as he headed to practice this week on the Red for the June 3-5 Open. “I’ll probably have the best knowledge of the river at that point than other Federation guys I have to beat to make the Classic. At least I’ll know where things are.”
The Federation Championship anglers compete only against others within their divisions. The best within each of six divisions win Classic seats.
“I have to beat 10 other people to make it to the Classic through the Federation, so I have to think that’s my best chance. I have one more tournament, (thus) a 1 in 11 chance in making it. In the Opens, there are two more tournaments to go, so I’d really have to perform in them to make the Classic.”
Both of his Classic bids could be decided within days of each other. The Federation Championship is scheduled for Oct. 27-29 — just days after the final Central Open event on Lake Texoma, Oct. 21-23, where the points race will end and two anglers will claim the Classic seats.
Nania is willing to put in his time to get what he wants.
“I’ll be down here all of October, pre-fishing on Texoma or the Red River, splitting up my time between the two,” he said. “I want to make the Elite Series and the Classic — that’s my goal.”
Reese still rules — but Evers gains ground: To no one’s surprise, Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., is still on top in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.
With a 59th place finish at last weekend’s Bassmaster Elite Series event, Reese kept 178 points ahead of his nearest challenger. While that’s a historically wide margin after six of eight events, Reese had been 258 points up.
Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla., is Reese’s closest challenger. Evers finished 19th in Georgia, high enough to anchor him at second in the AOY contest.
Derek Remitz of Grant, Ala., landed 3rd place in AOY points, up from 9th. Texan Gary Klein rose from 7th to 4th. Their gains were among the most significant within the top 12; only the best 12 anglers will advance to the July postseason.
Oklahoman Jeff Kriet, climbed from 13th to 9th. Kriet has been hopping into, out of, and back into the top 12 all season.
In 8th place — making his first top-12 appearance of the season — is Mark Davis of Mount Ida, Ark. Davis started in 25th and has been progressing fairly steadily all season.
Dropping out of the top 12 were Greg Vinson of Alabama and Bill Lowen of Ohio.
The top half of the 93-angler field is squeaky tight; only 169 points separate 36th place from 12th place.
Hitting the magic 36: After a bittersweet performance this past weekend, Cliff Crochet broke through to the top 36th in the Bassmaster Elite Series’ Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.
The cutoff for Bassmaster Classic qualification begins after No. 36. It would be the 26-year-old Elite rookie’s second Classic appearance. He earned his first, in the 2010 Classic, through the 2009 Bassmaster Central Open circuit.
Crochet advanced to 36th from 56th place after finishing second in the Pride of Georgia last Sunday. He now also leads the Elite Rookie of the Year contest. He overtook Bradley Roy, 19, of Kentucky, by 73 points.
Happy with those two accomplishments, Crochet still was hurting from his 2-ounce miss on the win on Clarks Hill Lake. He finished with 53-4 to Jason Williamson’s 53-6.
“Overall, getting into the Classic contention with two tournaments to go, does take the sting out of it a little bit,” he said Monday as he drove home to Pierre Part, La., from the tournament site in Georgia. “In the big picture, it does; yesterday, today and tomorrow, it doesn’t.”
His 900-plus-mile road trip provided plenty of time to replay the tournament in his head. He recalls the many crawfish claws in his livewell that came from the stomachs of his catches. He thinks of missed fish.
“I could go back all week long, and see again and again how I could have made up those 2 ounces somewhere, someway,” he said.
“I’m not here to lose,” he added. “I know I’m a rookie, but winning is possible, I was so close, and it doesn’t matter if I am a rookie or been there for 15 years. To win, to be successful, you have to think you can do it, make yourself believe it. Only problem with that is when it doesn’t work out, you fall that much harder.
“I won’t stop believing. I’ll go to Kentucky Lake and work as hard as I can. I just hope if I come in second again, it will be by more than 5 pounds, that I get beat really bad. Two ounces was too little…”
A two-timer: “Experience is the most important thing that you can have out here. I feel like I can contend in every tournament now and that’s a good feeling.” — Jason Williamson at Clarks Hill Lake taking his second Bassmaster Elite Series win
About BASS For more than 40 years, BASS has served as the authority on bass fishing. The organization advances the sport through advocacy, outreach and its expansive tournament structure while championing efforts to connect directly with the passionate community of bass anglers through its Bassmaster media vehicles. As the flagship offering of ESPN Outdoors, the Bassmaster brand and its considerable multimedia platforms are guided by a mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry-leading publications Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times and Fishing Tackle Retailer; comprehensive Web properties in Bassmaster.com, BASSInsider.com, ESPNOutdoors.com and ESPN3.com, and ESPN2 television programming, Bassmaster provides rich, leading-edge content true to the lifestyle. BASS oversees the prestigious Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Opens, BASS Federation Nation and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Bassmaster Classic. BASS offers an array of services to its more than 500,000 members while spearheading progressive, positive change on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.